Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rhinebeck Revisited: Sheep v. Goat

Two of the workshops that I taught at Rhinebeck
this year were “Diversity of Wool” and “Spinning & Knitting Goat Fibers”. I’d taught the wool workshop many times, but this was the first time I’d done the goat fibers workshop. I spent months collecting just the right mohair, cashmere, and pygora supplies and quite awhile composing the notes to accompany the workshop.

I do thoroughly enjoy the preparation stage of teaching. It’s during this preparation that a teacher really clarifies in her own mind what exactly is important about the topic in question. For this workshop, I got to come to terms with goat fibers, play with various ways to spin them, and remind myself what’s wonderful about knitting them. Because I was teaching this workshop during the same week as the wool workshop, I pondered on the similarities and differences between sheep fibers and goat fibers. This notion struck me:

Goat fibers are like bookends around sheep fibers.

Here’s what I mean: Wools range from soft and fine (e.g., merino) to coarse and strong (e.g., lincoln). The finer fibers tend to be less lustrous, the thicker fibers are more lustrous. And there’s plenty of variation along the continuum. I think of goat fibers as the outside extremes – the bookends – of these characteristics. For example, mohair from an adult angora goat is typically very strong, highly lustrous, and not particularly soft: rather like an extreme version of the longwools (cotswold, wensleydale, teeswater). On the other end of the spectrum is cashmere or pygora types B or C: very fine, very soft, not much luster; outside the range of merino.

Some of the mohair that I got for this workshop was from Sara Healy. Sara was the workshop coordinator at Rhinebeck, and she happens to raise angora goats. Her business name is Buckwheat Bridge Angoras
. In advance of my trip I ordered some raw mohair, some washed locks, some mohair top, and some mohair/wool roving. When I arrived at the fairgrounds, Sara took me to her van (she was also vendoring at the festival), and got out the huge bag of mohair supplies for me. She had to dig a bit for the mohair/wool roving. While she was hunting for it, she said, “I hope blue is ok…” Then she pulled out a pound of the loveliest roving of 50% kid mohair and 50% cormo wool. The colors were fantastic!

I used about 4 ounces during the workshop, and took the remaining 12 ounces home with me. I got around to spinning a simple two-ply yarn from the roving last week. The colors reminded me of many of the beautiful lakes in this area. So, I named the yarn “Crystal Lake”, after one of the largest and prettiest lakes in Benzie county.

Here’s a picture of the yarn:

And you can see a picture of Crystal Lake if you click here.

To give wool “equal time”, here’s a picture of some of the samples that I have workshop participants examine in the Diversity of Wool class (In this shot, you can see samples of coopworth, cvm, finn, merino, and wensleydale.):

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